Joining Groups

Yes, it was a bit of an ego trip, however, I wanted to see whether my art stood up to serious jury consideration. I chose two organizations, submitted applications to both and hey presto! I got in! So, now what?

Well, let’s step back a minute, actually a few years. Do you remember the book created from a trip by a group of artists to the Great Bear Rainforest? That initiative married art with conservation, and the book “Canada’s Raincoast at Risk: Art for an Oil-free Coast” is sitting on our bookcase. And that seeded a question – how do you get to participate with a group like that?

This year I have been tuning into the different organizations artists belong to. I looked at a few, and then stumbled across Artists for Conservation. With my own art, 5% of my net income is donated to Malaspina Land Conservancy Society. I co-founded MLCS back in 2008 and it serves to help land owners preserve their land. Although our land conservancy is geographically bound to the Powell River area, there are conservancies world wide doing similar work and we are part of a network. So, I “knocked” on the door of Artists for Conservation.

And, I got in! There are about 500 artists from over 30 countries involved with AFC, a registered charity formed in Canada and known as the world’s largest collection of artists working for conservation. Canadian Robert Bateman is Honorary Chair of the AFC Advisory Board and has been involved since 2005.

The organization’s website hosts work by each artist and allows purchases through its online and exhibition presence.

Within a week of applying to AFC, I was reading the latest edition of International Artist Magazine and looked into one of the artists featured. He was a member of the International Guild of Realism. So, naturally, I looked up that organization…and applied!

So, now I am a member of IGOR as well. Phew! When I told my husband, he did a double-take until I explained it was to do with art realism. Although, I like where his mind went.

I continue to be fascinated by how artists can make a hyper-realistic portrayal of a three-dimensional object onto a two-dimensional object. I enjoy the abstract nature of the art once you stand 3 inches away from it – it is such an illusion.

IGOR provides exhibits, online presence, education and a vast membership that attracts attention.

Back to the question, now what? I have joined two large organizations, which in essence means I have increased my number of art colleagues…sure, why not…of well over 1,000. If our local Malaspina Land Conservancy Society holds a fundraising event, I can invite all the Artists for Conservation members to participate. Both websites get so many hits per month that my work is exposed to a much larger audience than this little blog and website can ever hope to engage.

Oh, I don’t know. I know my ego was inflated when I was accepted by both organizations, however, I think this is a good thing and it certainly encourages me to keep going, keep painting, keep capturing those images from today for the eyes of tomorrow.

Are you part of an art organization? If so, or if you are considering applying, please share that in the comments below. Bye for now!

A Clean Palette

I’m so excited! I created my own palette and I love it!! I know, there are bigger things going on in the world than a measly little palette. However, to me, it is big, it was cheap and here’s how to make it.

While watching countless YouTube videos on how to paint, I have noticed a fair number of oil painters using a glass palette. Yes, there are those with the full wooden oval palettes with a hole for your thumb, but that’s never appealed to me. However, the glass one has.

I went to a local second-hand charity shop last month with a whole list of things to look for, and definitely a piece of glass was not on the list, but you know how it is…In with the picture frames was a small pile of glass taken out of something…probably picture frames… and piled up for sale at 50 cents a piece.

Glass palette for oil painting

I know this won’t win prizes for looking beautiful, however, it is really functional. When I got my glass home, I realized the edges needed to be protected…or at least, I needed protecting from the edges…they were pretty sharp. So, I took out some good old green painters’ tape and taped them all.

Then, I needed something grey underneath. A grey surface provides a good place to mix colours because grey is neutral and colours mixed on it will show tone and saturation and value much better than on a clear, white or multicoloured surface. So, I used a piece of Canva tear-off artcard, painted it a neutral grey, the painted blotches of grey gradients down the side. After it had dried I taped it to the back of the glass with painters’ tape.

Yes, I could have done better, it could be prettier, but it is what it is. Yesterday I took it for a test drive and I found mixing colours using a palette knife was no effort at all. I had the wrist space, the palette was flat, and at the end of the day, it was really easy to clean. The green painters’ tape will need to be replaced at some point as it will invariably get messy, but that’s a tiny price to pay for something that I hope will enhance my home painting environment.

Of course, it was also a stalling technique before getting painting again, however it was a good one with a good outcome and it only set me back half a dollar. So, how have you added to your painting environment recently? Will you give creating a palette a go? If so, let me know how it turns out.

From Painting to Drawing

My most recent painting is now hanging in the gallery and I have one canvas left. As I consider my next order from Opus, I’m excited about a week in which I can get back to the basics and draw.

Current display at Artique Artists’ gallery

I think I started this whole art thing upside down. Not that there is anything wrong with that; I now have confidence wielding a brush far more than I have confidence wielding a pencil, that’s all, and that needs to change.

This week I saw a beautiful photograph on my Instagram feed. It featured a wizened, gnarly tree balanced on the edge of a deep valley with jagged, snow-covered mountains all around and a glacial lake in the bottom. The photographer had shown both the black and white version and the colour version and, wow, the black and white version was so dramatic, I could look at it for hours.

With the ease of being able to grayscale a photograph using computer software, my bank of reference photos could be days, weeks, months and years worth of fodder for pencil drawings.

I see pencil as different to pen and ink. I am quite comfortable with pen drawings – I call them scribbles, not as a negative but as a fun positive – and they were my go-to during the plein air excursions last year (and likely will be again this year).

Pencil is a whole different technique. There’s the dynamic of adding, taking away, smudging, and really dirty fingers! There’s soft edges, hard edges, all the Hs and Bs, light and shadow and deepest darks.

Mermaid Cove, black and white

What I’ve tried so far isn’t worth showing, but here’s the photo I’m working from as it is proving pretty challenging. It’s a black and white rendition of the coastline south of here, looking north, and I am only just starting to see that there’s some shrub like laurel in the right margin of the photo that needs to be drawn forward from the trees in the background…ugh! How do I do that?

Anyway, this is the perfect little side route (I see it as one of those short trails to a viewpoint before continuing on the main path) of my artist’s journey while the rain is falling, the wind is blowing and it’s still too cold to sit outside for more than 10 minutes. Besides, I’m waiting for my delivery of canvases to arrive.

Have you spent much time working on pencil drawings? If so, I’d love to hear what you think of the endeavour. If not, give it a go – I’m sure you must have a pencil and some paper lying around somewhere…

Painting with the Seasons

Is a very obviously winter scene attractive to prospective buyers at any time of year? It’s a question I have been grappling with and have a hunch the answer is no.

It’s late February and today temperatures rose from a very crisp -4 degrees Celsius at around 6 am to +7 by midday. We had a wintery squall pass through yesterday with 30 minutes of soggy snowflakes before the clouds moved off and blue sky took over. This is pretty typical for February on the west coast of Canada and it is anyone’s guess whether we’re in for an early spring or another blast of winter.

Snow Angel
12 x 24″ Oil on Canvas

Getting back to my question, I just happen to have finished Snow Angel, a scene from the top of Mount Washington captured by photo back in February 2017. I finished the painting of it two weeks ago and then waited until last night to add a coat of Retouch varnish to protect it before regular varnish can be added in six months…such is the life of painting with oil.

As I took it down to hang on the wall of Artique Artists Cooperative gallery, I did wonder whether I was pushing it. There were no other vividly wintery scenes in the gallery and this one now really stands out.

I wonder whether, much as clothing stores do, we need to pay attention to the coming seasons and display artwork accordingly? What do you think?

I’ll leave this one up for a month or so, and after that, unless is sells (which would be lovely…) it will come home until being put back on display again, perhaps November? Yes, November can be a little dreary and dark and a bit of fresh snow might be eagerly anticipated by those who like to ski or build snow people, or…make snow angels.

New Year, New Materials

A package arrived in the mail yesterday, something I had been waiting two weeks to receive. Not a big package, roughly the size of a loaf of bread, but it isn’t size that counts, it’s what was inside.

As I rounded out last year, I started creating with oil paints. Taking a course with Lucas Kratochwil early summer had meant purchasing five colours in oil. For a long time, I debated what type of oils to purchase. Painting in the corner of our dining room means the odour of whatever I use will permeate the living portion of our home. Times have changed, materials have changed, and now there are water-soluble oils that are easy to clean up, don’t smell, and, thank goodness, are forgiving if a paintbrush falls off the table and leaves splatters on the hardwood floor…

8 colours, water-soluble linseed oil, together with an old contact lens holder for fresh oil and small jar for cleaning paintbrushes.

Yesterday’s package rounded out my selection. I now have eight Holbein Duo Aqua oil colours and, apparently, I should be able to mix any colour I could possibly need…we will see. So far, with only five colours, I painted the mountains on Vancouver Island (see previous post), Whistler Mountain during the course with Lucas, and the painting at the bottom of this post, Sundown over Chancellor Channel. However, I really needed a couple of reds and another yellow to round things out (I’d had to borrow teeny amounts from my acrylics). So now I have them! I may need to add a mixing medium, and a flat palette would be nice – that’s the thing with painting…there are always more art supplies to be tempted by, and yet, what do we really need?

Well, now that I have asked myself that question, there are a number of things: a new outdoor easel (my current one has a broken leg), a Hughes wall-mounted easel – goodness me! Have you seen those in action. Amazing. Cory Trepanier has one, as does Sophie Ploeg although she chose the free-standing one, but I’d need to sell a good few paintings to afford that. Oh, and a nice camera with video capabilities would be delightful! But, I digress.

Golden Open acrylics, brushes, palette, colour wheel, brushes and all sorts of other things.

Here’s my acrylics setup. There is nothing wrong with this, and I will continue to use it all. I have more than 20 colours, because who doesn’t like all the colours on the market? The soft paintbrushes work equally well with the oils, the palette knives are invaluable for mixing with, and a friend of mine recently gifted me a little round soap dish and soap…my go-to cleaning materials for all things paint. I have a colour wheel, which I have tried to use a bit more recently, and notes picked up from watching videos by Andrew Tischler, James Gurney and other artists about recipes for mixing colour.

So, do I need a second set of painting materials? Of course 🙂 Will it make my paintings better? Perhaps. I am learning more techniques, getting familiar with more materials, experiencing more variety of colour with fewer options and, most importantly, having more fun!

Sundown over Chancellor Channel
Oil on canvas, 20″ x 20″

Right, I’m off to prepare my next canvas and decide on an image. However, I am interested to know, have you stayed with one set of materials, or branched out to try other things? Have you tried the new water-soluble oils? Please get in touch as I would like to hear.

Trying oils

I have a new painting sitting upside down on my easel at the moment, drying. It’s the last stage of production before I can take it down to the gallery and put it up for sale. At least, that’s what I thought. However, apparently with oils I have to be a tad more patient.

Morning Light over Beaufort Range
Oil on Canvas, 12″ x 24″

Patience is a tough lesson for me. I am used to finishing an acrylic, letting it dry a day, turning it over, adding the hanging hardware, naming it and then putting it up on the wall at Artique Artists’ Cooperative Gallery. Oils are a totally different medium! I was partway through this painting, working from sky to sea, and having just finished the background mountains, when I realized…I haven’t put on the hanging hardware!

I thought about this for a while. The paint was wet, and for all I knew, it might be wet for weeks. If I couldn’t hanging it on a wall…any wall…where would I put it to dry off? Luckily, I am married to a husband with a workshop, and in that workshop is a vice attached to the workbench. I gathered some pieces of foam and a towel and headed down to the basement with my painting. With a little fan-angling, the canvas stood upright, with the vice only pressing on the lower wood backing, and I could attach the screws and wire.

In June, I took a four-week oil painting workshop led by hyper-realist artist Lucas Kratochwil. Lucas now lives in Roberts’ Creek, yet comes from Patagonia and a family of artists. He has created astonishing paintings of the mountains around Whistler, and I was drawn to learn how to capture snow effectively on canvas. It meant purchasing a small collection of oils and I chose to use Holbein-Duo Aqua oils for their ease of cleanup and reduced toxicity. Together with 60+ other people from around the world, and using Zoom, Lucas painstakingly took us through the creation of a beautiful picture of Whistler mountain with Black Tusk in the distance. (Check out his upcoming workshops to see if one speaks to you.)

Since then, I have wanted to put my oils to use again, and recently the view across the Salish Sea from our living room was stunning. We look out onto the Comox glacier, and a group of peaks called the Beaufort Range, with the northern end of Texada Island in the foreground. Many photos later and I had enough reference material to start.

So, trying a new medium is exciting, and I would definitely recommend it. Just remember there are rules attached to oils that force a little patience, a little time and a degree of respect for the process.

What medium do you use in your art, and have you been trying a different medium recently? Have you tried oils? If so, what do you think? I’d love to hear back from you.

Getting it Done

Sometimes, a good rainy month means plenty of time indoors at the easel to finish off old projects and start some new. Today, I finished my second painting of the month, which feels good.

Another Fall Day
28″ x 22″ acrylic on canvas

As you know from previous posts, I have been working with a group of artists, visiting and painting in some very beautiful locations up and down our coast. A couple of weeks ago, we picked a sunny fall day to sit at Lindsay Park on Cranberry Lake, under the falling leaves, until the cold swept into our bones and it was time to head home for the day.

When I arrive at an en plein air location, I take a series of photographs to check where I want to work from and, on this occasion, I chose a different spot for a soft pastel rough sketch. So, it wasn’t until I was home that I realized my photos of the scene above were far nicer than the scene I spent time on.

I prepared a 28″ x 22″ canvas with gesso and chose a dark purple ground. From that, I wiped away just a few areas that would need to capture the light. I liked it at this stage…and thought that perhaps just a 30-minute work on canvas would do – it could be a new “style” for me – but I knew I had to keep going.

I have used a bright yellowy-green on various paintings in the past and always loved it. It is eye-catching and warm, and instantly adds a “happiness” to the painting. At this very minimalist stage, I thought about leaving the painting as it was, once again, but in the end continued.

I chose three of the trees in my photograph, leaving out one that was on the far right, and painted the major tree scaffolding over the sky and lake in an almost black combination of Van Dyke brown and ultramarine blue. Palette knife and light molding gel added texture to the tree trunks.

It was then a case of painting on the millions of leaves. The one thing that really got me having to think, consult my reference photos, think again, ask family and friends for suggestions, think again and finally do it, was making the sun shine as brightly as I could. My photo had the sun flaring because I had stood at an angle where the sun was partly hidden by branches in order to take the photo. This flaring caused rainbow-like colours to “ray” out, and the only way of making the sun look like the sun and bright enough for the painting was to copy that as closely as I could.

So, if you see the original (at the top of this post), you will see how I have attempted to do that. I am still very much a student of the elements and I have by no means totally captured the sun’s brilliance as much as I would have liked…but I think I have come close to it.

Summertime at Block Bay
16″ x 12″ acrylic on canvas

Oh, and before I close, I mentioned that I had finished two paintings this month. The first was to actually finish one started at Block Bay on Powell Lake. You may recall, in one of the previous posts, the unfortunate event of a gust of wind taking my palette of paints out of my hands and dropping it into the lake. Here’s Summertime at Block Bay.

I hope November has been a good month for you. I would love to see what art projects you have been working on during this rainy time of year, and what elements of nature you find challenging to paint.

Podcast companion

Sometimes, having a conversation playing in the background, especially an interesting one, can motivate art at the easel.

In process: Back alley coreopsis

I’m talking about tuning into Podcasts, although really this could be a family conversing, coffee shop chatter, a radio program, or, I guess music. It could be an audio book or a webinar, potentially even a Zoom meeting so long as you don’t need to be there on video and participating.

Lately, I have been tuning into Youngman Brown’s “Your Creative Push” and I am finding his resource of almost 400 episodes worth exploring. He is taking a break right now from podcasting, so it is a great chance to research the archives and pick what suits you for today.

Take, for instance, this conversation with Martha Beck. There is a lot to digest from this episode, and one take-away is to tune into your gut when considering a pursuit. Whatever it might be – and since this is the Artists’ Journey, let’s say a painting subject – consider the idea. Do you want to spend 10, 20 or more hours detailing a painting of, say, back alley coreopsis, like the one I am currently creating? Would something with detail like that make your stomach turn/churn or excite you? (Honestly, I must have spent more than 20 hours on it already and I keep finding things to do!)

Another inspiring conversation Youngman had is with artist James Gurney. I just listened to this yesterday, and it speaks to what I will be doing today in about an hour – heading outside to do some art. Something small and quick, or something that takes all day – regardless of what it is – if it is furthering your art experience, it will be a healthy pursuit. Gurney suggests giving chance to explore different mediums, not caring whether the end result is show-worthy or sellable. That, the best education in art comes from doing.

Today, I will be cycling off to a location with lots of cover. There is a low cloud drizzle so I will be experimenting with soft pastels on coloured paper. This isn’t my usual medium, but I tried it last week in the fog and it seemed perfect for the day.

As we were working, the fog started clearing and by the end of a few hours the sun was hot and everything had changed. I personally preferred it foggy – just for its mysterious quality, and sitting beside the shore with birds calling but unseen was magical.

So, have a listen to Your Creative Push and let me know what you think. Then, grab your art supplies – especially something you are unfamiliar with using – and head outdoors. It is only early October and there is still lots you could interpret from 3D to 2D so go for it!

Drawing More from Art

When you choose a spot for plein air painting and the wind picks up and takes your paints away, what do you do?

It happened to me. Two Saturdays ago it was the Grand Prix of Art 2020. This is an annual en plein air painting challenge based in Steveston, BC. Because of Covid, the event became virtual and thus, international.

As you may know, a few of us get together regularly to paint or draw outside. The Upper Sunshine Coast is full of spectacular locations for exquisite compositions, and so it was that on August 29, we arrived at Block Bay at the edge of Powell Lake. As you can see, it is a lovely location. As you cannot see, it was very windy.

The Grand Prix is a 3-hour painting challenge. I was excited to be painting outside again. I had refreshed all of my acrylics in my colour palette, and had found a way to prop up the broken leg of my outdoor tripod easel. My canvas was prepped with orange as a base and I was ready!

I sat beside a large horizontal log, which was the barrier before a long drop to the lake. Just as I opened my palette of colours, the wind picked up and flew my palette over the log and down into the water. We could see it bobbing around, but it couldn’t be reached.

Luckily, I had driven to the spot, and it was only a 10-minute drive to get home. So off I went to replenish my paints (I managed to forget my white paint!), and picked up another palette. This photo is me once I got back. Note the bungee cords holding the palette to the seat and my canvas to the easel.

With only an hour left, all I could do was a very brief “block in”, which will be worked on at home without the interference of wind!

This summer, I have generally taken my sketch book to en plein air outings – that probably would have resulted in a more successful endeavour at Block Bay! Since the Grand Prix, we have been to two more locations. The next was Lang Bay Fish Hatchery. The Lang Bay river was flowing fast and a sunny day in the forest at the river’s edge provided lovely dappled lighting. I got about halfway to the end of completing my sketch of that site and will definitely finish it (middle sketch in the photo below).

And yesterday’s en plein air was at 3-Mile Bay, again on Powell Lake’s shoreline (first picture on the left). There is even more to finish there.

I am accumulating quite a number of sketches and I feel like my drawing abilities are improving (if only I could finish my drawings before heading home). Drawing in ink doesn’t allow for errors, and is a great way to train the eye to see lights and darks.

Have you picked up a pen and gone with some paper to some lovely outdoor location? How did your drawing turn out? I’d love to see some posts.

Drawing is at the heart

So often I hear that to really be able to paint, one needs to be able to draw. So, for my birthday, I helped my husband decide on a gift by giving him a wish list. It worked! What arrived in the mail was “Beginning Drawing Atelier” by Juliette Aristides.

This is a sketchbook, and it is not for the faint at heart. It requires that you get out the pencils and start drawing within its covers.

I have an old set of pencils that I have carried around for perhaps two decades. They range from 8H to 8B and are now in need of sharpening 🙂

I have been learning a lot during this time of Covid precautions. Most of my learning has been through Youtube or podcasts or personal websites. It was nice to receive this hard-cover book and have something tangible to read and react to.

I finished reading the book about a month ago, and have since been trying to catch up on all of the exercises. Hopefully I am not upsetting copyright by posting this. This is what to expect, and is near the end of the book. The exercises start off much more simply.

I am reminded that not every piece of art needs to be wall-ready. I get so caught up in painting and trying to get to a product that I feel good about selling, that it is nice to relax a little and “play”.

I hope this inspires you to grab a few pencils and try drawing. I found Juliette’s book on Amazon, or you could try her website.